Qingdao: The city that swaps Buddha heads and jade items for oysters, clams, and starfish. I chose to stay in this city for a few days, because it would be a nice break between the bustling streets of Shanghai and Beijing. Walking around, you can feel the clean, fresh air of the natural seabreeze; a welcome change from the polluted streets I’ve previously roamed around. Qingdao is known for brewing the beer of China, Tsingtao, which I’ve drank on many occasions across the country. And the city won’t let you forget that’s their pride and joy, for Tsingtao advertisements are everywhere high and low. On my first day, I took at trip to the Qingdao Beer Museum, convienantly placed on ‘Beer Street’. The weather was awful the first day,with really bad rain and wind. Luckily the next couple of days were the complete opposite!
I’d booked into a hostel close to the train station which was definitely the worst hostel I’ve stayed in so far. It was the epitome of that hostel stereotype, with rock solid bunkeds where you’re almost sleeping on the ground, damp walls, rubbish just swept under the beds and very thin walls so you can hear everything. A shower right over the toilet wasn’t great either, and someone had trod sand everywhere too. I guess I’ve just been lucky with all the other hostels I’ve stayed in as they felt more like hotels. I shared with 4 Chinese guys who were nice and constantly sharing their food with me, and then there was also a British couple called Hafsa and Paul. We instantly got on, and after our second night at The Hostel From Hell, we checked out early and walked uphill for almost an hour to reach the next hostel. It said online there were 8 free beds, but when we got there they said they were full. Hafsa and I managed to get us in though; she started off really angry and shouting at them, and then I came through afterwards telling a couple of white lies like LOOK we’ve lost out on money from our old hostel because we really wanted to come here, can’t you just help us out in this situation… and it worked! I was put in a dorm and they had a private room for a dorm bed price. That hostel was beautiful, on top of a hill with an amazing view over the town where you could see the sea!
Hafsa and I walked along the seafront one afternoon; it was so strange to be at the beach in China, I guess I’ve always just pictured China to be busy streets and market alleys. The swimwear is interesting though… the women wear old-fashioned tacky style costumes whilst the men wear tight swimming camps and even tighter speedos. Not a great look. That evening at the hostel we got talking to an Australian guy called Baz who had invented some sort of towel so he was trying to set that business up out here :’) He was probably the most interesting person I’ve ever met, I was in awe of the stories he was telling us haha. He’s seen the world and visited this weird desert place where Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin used to play, and where Charles Manson killed a goat before the massacre that came afterwards. There were other stories too that were so cool but repeating them back probably isn’t as interesting as hearing it in person 😛
There was a quote I noticed in the beer museum describing the Qingdao people; they eat safood, drink beer, and flock to the beach The 4 of us went out for dinner that night, just at a local restaurant where we tried seafood and drank the beer, very Qingdao-esque of us. Seafood is another prominent theme of Qingdao, which you can easily tell from the fishy smells wafting from the restaurants. Large tanks sit outside buildings with many sealife crammed in, unfortunately many of them already dead… not such a pleasant sight! There is lots of German history here as this is how the Tsingtao beer industry started, and you can tell this from all the churches and German style architecture in the city. That’s another reason why it didn’t feel overly Chinesey, because it looked more like a European sea-side resort (not quite Blackpool though…). We also went to a German Prison Museum, where we got to see the horrible torture chambers, however they had some iron cuffs up where the visitors could pretend to be chained up. Lots of the locals were just laughing around and tying themselves up… it was a really sad place, why would you want to pretend to be a tortured prisoner!!
Even though it was all a bit eventful in Qingdao, I still really enjoyed my stay there and was probably one of my favourite parts to visit just because it was so different. On the train from Shanghai to Qingdao, I had an old Chinese woman sat next to me who was so friendly. She thought I didn’t have any food with me so she was just feeding me bread, apples, and sweets. A bit later she gestured she was cold so I shared my massive scarf with her. She refused to take all of it so she had most of it draped over her, and then a smaller section on my legs. I wish someone had got a photo of it, it was just one of those really nice moments where even though we couldn’t understand each other and came from entirely different cultures and lifestyles, we were still able to help each other out.
I’m now in Beijing, and will be here until Sunday until I fly home- I’m so excited to see everyone again!